A misfit Earth soldier joins a rescue mission in outer space in Meeks-Johnson’s debut sci-fi novel.
When the Entanglement, a powerful alliance between many alien planets, brings a new species into its fold, all the members of that species are assigned the same job. For example, the rule-oriented Dasypods make up the Entanglement’s Police Guild. Lt. Jade Mahelona is a native Hawaiian who fears that Earth’s assimilation into the Entanglement will destroy its diverse culture, in the same way that white colonialism damaged Hawaii’s. Jade’s scientist mother did experiments on her daughter that gave her the ability to sense electrical fields and read the feelings of people around her. As a member of Earth’s Solar Defense Force, she takes on a mission to rescue a group of alien colonists. Her team includes Cmdr. Ironsides, a grumpy Dasypod who’s prejudiced against humans; Quist Quillipson, an Obnot from the Science Guild who has a brain like a supercomputer; and professor Conrad Singleton, an enthusiastic human linguist and xenologist who may be hiding a dark secret. As the squad teleports from base to base, Jade becomes aware that the interstellar empire known as the Immortal Ascendency is primed to violate its treaty and attack the Entanglement. To prevent the annihilation of humanity, the SDF must go to war. The alien cultures that Jade encounters are delightfully and often humorously bizarre; for example, the Dasypods enter periodic meditative states in which they think about their flaws, followed by compulsive apologies to everyone around them. Jade’s thoughtful meditations on the dangers of colonialism are also compelling. However, the book’s characterization of humanity as militaristic, first and foremost—and its reinvention of a Hindu god as a murderous alien tyrant—muddles the message. A few characters, such as Lt. Keolo Davis and Immortal Lord Umlac aren’t as well-developed as the main squad, and the duller segments that focus on them may leave readers itching to get back to the more likable heroes. The prose is simple and engaging throughout, even when conveying complicated scientific concepts.
A clever and entertaining, if somewhat-uneven, adventure tale.